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5 Stages of Grief, Loss & Healing

How does experiencing grief actually feel? We've described grief as a complex set of physical, emotional and intellectual reactions to any kind of loss. Naturally, since each of us is unique, our reactions to loss (whether it's divorce, unemployment, ill health, foreclosure, or a death) are also very different from those of other people.

This page of our cremation services websites discusses the five stages of loss and grief that people go through after losing a loved one. 

5 stages of grief girl

You've no doubt read about the grief process at some point in your life. And you may have also come in contact with various ideas about the stages of grief; one theory, developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969, breaks down the grieving process into five (5) stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, it's essential to realize that Ms. Kubler-Ross was writing about the grief experienced by the terminally ill; these five stages really only identify key emotional reactions to the experience of the dying.

Despite her narrow focus, this five stage model has been mistakenly applied to grieving in all areas of our lives; and despite this misuse, it's effectively guided thousands of people through their experience of grieving. Giving them a basic framework from which to view their grieving experience, the five stage model for grieving has been amended by some grief counselors, resulting in a grief process which includes:

  • Denial & Isolation 
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

They were first proposed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book Death and Dying.

Each individual is different and may not necessarily experience the 5 stages in the order listed below. To go through the grieving process, you do not need to follow step by step. Rather you must use them as a guide to help you move forward. An important piece to remember regardless of what stage you are in is; As long as there is life, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is life.

Denial and Isolation
The first reaction most people have is to deny the reality of the situation. When learning of any unpleasant news, people tend to become overwhelmed with emotions and try to deny the facts. This is a temporary response we use to try and block out the initial pain from the news we have just received.

The second stage of grief people typically go through is anger. After denying the situation no longer masks the pain, anger begins to take place. The anger response is a result of the vulnerable feeling we go through and is redirected outwards as anger. Anger is typically directed at others even though we know they are not responsible for the situation. In many cases, the anger is a result of believing the person who has passed away is the one responsible for causing the pain. Rationally we know this person is not responsible for causing us pain which can begin to give you a feeling of guilt.

During this stage, we begin to try and bargain as a way to improve the situation. This is done in an attempt to regain control and stop feeling vulnerable or helpless. Secretly people may try to make a deal with God or a higher power in order to postpone the inevitable. Common phrases people have during this stage include:
If only we had sought medical attention earlier…
We should have consulted with another doctor for a second opinion…

5 stages of grief girl fieldDepression occurs in two stages when we are mourning. The first is a reaction to the practical implications related to the loss. This can include worrying about costs, planning the service, and that during this period we haven’t spent enough time with loved ones.

The second stage is more private. This is when we are preparing to say goodbye to our loved one.

This stage is not always reached by those dealing with a loss. When a death was unexpected, it can be hard for some to ever move past anger or denial. Acceptance does not mean a period of happiness but rather making peace with the situation. It is when we begin to calm and move past the depression stage.

No matter what situation or stage you are in, it’s is important to know that there are people dedicated to helping you grieve. Our caring and compassionate staff can help you through the grieving process with advice and resources.